Each year, hundreds of thousands of bikers swarm into Sturgis, South Dakota, home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally. Sturgis is in the heart of the Black Hills, highlighting America’s natural beauty and rich cultural history. Bikers, tourists, and anyone who loves nature will appreciate all the Sturgis area has to offer. My family and I grew up camping in this area. Our camping trips were booked around “Bike Week.” My parents did not want to visit during this busy time.
I am not a motorcycle enthusiast, but I visited Sturgis during bike week as an adult, and it was something to see. With so many things to see and do, you will want to plan a return visit to Sturgis in addition to the rally. Each of these nine things to do in Sturgis, South Dakota, is within 120 miles of Sturgis. I encourage you to visit anytime of year.
1. Mount Rushmore
The 60-foot faces of American Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln sit on the side of a mountain overlooking the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore does not charge an entrance fee, but there is a parking fee that all visitors must pay. National Park Passes cannot be used for parking fees.
The best advice I can give you is to arrive by 9 a.m., as this is one of America’s top tourist attractions. The crowds are minimal in the early morning and it is a cooler time of day.
Pro Tip: Hang onto your parking ticket, as it is good for the whole year.
2. Badlands National Park
I once visited Badlands National Park during the week of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and met several motorcycle enthusiasts there. Each had a story of how thrilled they were to participate in the massive event. Many of them stood in awe as they glanced at the beauty of Badlands National Park, commenting on how happy they were to have made the day trip from Sturgis.
If you plan to visit other national parks within the year, purchase a National Park Pass. I have found these passes worth their weight in gold, as they encourage me to stop at any national parks I come across in my travels.
3. Wall Drug
Wall Drug is a fantastic stop to or from Badlands National Park. From dining, shopping, souvenir finds, and free ice-cold water, Wall Drug will not disappoint. This small, charming western town will leave you refreshed and ready to conquer the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. If you are looking for a home-cooked meal, look no further than Wall Drug. The homemade donuts, pies, and legendary hot-beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and homemade gravy are sure to please any visitor. The 5-cent cup of coffee is sure to be a win for coffee fans. The air conditioning within the complex will be inviting after a hot summer day in Badlands National Park.
4. Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall Of Fame
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is located in the heart of Sturgis, South Dakota. When you visit this museum, you will learn about the contributions of people who have positively impacted the motorcycle community and beyond. When you visit, the Checkered Room will lure you in. The different styles and sizes of bikes are always fun to see as you meander through the displays. If you have questions, there are knowledgeable people to answer them throughout the complex. The museum is handicap-accessible, including restrooms and an elevator.
5. Custer State Park
Custer State Park is home to more than 70,000 acres of beauty in the heart of the Black Hills. Your entrance fee is good for 7 days, making this an excellent place for a return visit throughout your time at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Drive Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road and experience South Dakota beauty unlike anything you have ever experienced. Early morning and late evening are the best times for viewing wildlife like bison and burros. Wildlife Loop Road will provide incredible viewing opportunities. It’s important to remember the animals in Custer State Park are wild animals; keep your distance from them and travel smart.
Pro Tip: Bring binoculars with you into Custer State Park.
6. Full Throttle Saloon
The Full Throttle Saloon, the world’s largest biker bar, is a must-visit during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Myself and a friend stumbled upon this biker bar during the rally on a recent road trip and stopped. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, it’s a must-stop, and if you are an average tourist in the Black Hills, stop! The parking lot was a quick indicator of how large the bar was, as the parking lot was huge. A parking attendant directed us to a parking spot, making the parking process slick. Upon entry, we quickly realized we were not dressed in biker attire, but we fit in quickly. There is no judgment in this bar and everyone is welcome. The bar’s music, drinks, smiles, and vastness will wow you.
Pro Tip: Look for the vintage motorcycle parts that comprise some of the bar areas.
7. Crazy Horse Memorial
Carving continues on Crazy Horse Memorial and it’s quite a sight to see. With an expected completion date of 2037, the memorial is a work-in-progress. The entire carving of Lakota leader Crazy Horse is 641 feet long and 563 feet high. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a complex of incredible experiences for all guests. The Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Education and Cultural Center are part of this majestic complex. Your admission ticket to Crazy Horse Memorial includes access to three museums, an orientation film, viewing the sculpture from the veranda and wall of windows, and scheduled cultural programming. Remember, this is not a completed monument, making the experience unique.
Pro Tip: For an additional fee, optional tours are available.
8. Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is more than a cave. Established in 1903, it is one of the oldest national parks and does not have an entrance fee. Hiking and wildlife viewing do not require reservations while offering hours of entertainment. If you are hiking with a pet, there are two pet-friendly trails. Both trails are close to the visitor center and about a mile long. A ticket is necessary if you want to dive deep and explore Wind Cave on a guided tour. Cave tour reservations need to be made ahead of time. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis at the visitor center.
9. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
Drive for 22 miles of panoramic views, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and historic landmarks. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful byways in the country. Plan a minimum of 2 hours riding the route, as you will want to stop several times along your drive. If you see cars pulled over or people looking up with binoculars, that’s your clue to stop. A hungry mountain goat is sometimes the culprit, indulging along the byway. The mountain goats tend to be higher along the cliffs but often come down by the roadways for meals.
Spearfish Falls cannot be seen from the scenic byway. A 1.5-mile round-trip hike will get you to the 47-foot waterfall. Birding is spectacular throughout the year in Spearfish Canyon. Benches are set along the hike, allowing you time to embrace the canyon.
Pro Tip: Take frequent breaks driving through the canyon and look up.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in the heart of the Black Hills, an incredible place of beauty in the United States. Make the drive, experience nature, and have fun. As fellow Midwesterners, we often think that “Bike Week” is a hassle to visit South Dakota. In all reality, the bikers add to the visit, making things more memorable. Several communities have historical sites and museums that are worth dropping in for a visit. I appreciate the Black Hills of South Dakota, and over time, I increasingly appreciate the area. There is something special about visiting during Bike Week, so make the most of every moment.